B2B Sales Cycle Getting Longer, Study Says

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B2B sale length BtoB Bizo 2013On Tuesday Marketing Profs published some pretty darn interesting research. The study was conducted by BtoB and Bizo. It found that many B2B marketers struggle to segment and target the correct audiences. Further, the study found that the sales cycle for B2B companies is getting longer. Fascinating stuff.

Here’s a summary of the some of the significant findings from the study.

Finding 1 – 43% of B2B companies (a plurality) said their sales cycle has lengthened in the past 12 months.

After we read this study, we debated this finding in our marketing office. Why is the B2B sales cycle getting longer?

Here are three possible factors we came up with:



– A Still Poor Economy – The sputtering economy means that companies are evaluating purchases and vendor relationships more carefully. Price sensitivity is growing. Negotiations are more intense and take longer. Approval for purchase now has to be given by a more lofty title. A few months ago a marketing manager might have made a purchasing decision for his or her department. Today that decision has to be made by the C-Suite or a VP.

All of these factors combine to create longer purchase processes and a lengthened sales cycle.

– More Options – Competition in certain sectors breeds more uncertainty on the part of the buyer. If there were only one marketing automation company, for example, the sales cycle would likely be shorter. Instead, the customer has to choose between Marketo, Eloqua, Hubspot and Pardot (to name a few). As markets develop sales cycles within those marketers lengthen.

– Testing and Pilots – Big companies in the B2B space do not want to dive into a vendor relationship without a substantial and meaningful test. They want to test the water and engage in a limited pilot first. These pilots have increased in frequency and length. (All of this is, perhaps, owing to the economy).

Finding 2 – 60% of B2B marketers still say their greatest marketing challenge is generating an appropriate number of leads.

This will forever be the number one concern among marketers: how to generate enough leads to keep sales happy. This concern will never be alleviated nor obstructed. This is the marketing concern for the ages.

Frankly, I’m just surprised the number isn’t higher.

Finding 3 – 36% say their biggest online marketing challenge is accurately measuring and attributing conversions to the correct marketing channel.

This continues to stun me. How are nearly 40% of B2B marketers still struggling to attribute leads?



But, apparently, even sophisticated B2B marketers are having a difficult time determining which marketing channels generate phone calls. I don’t know how this is possible. With the sophisticated web analytics tools and increasingly sophisticated call analytics tools on the market, marketers have no excuse. Every marketing department and every marketing agency should be easily able to measure and attribute conversions to the appropriate channel.

Finding 4 – 34% of B2B marketers said they don’t have the correct tools or infrastructure to collect and analyze marketing data.

See our response to Finding #3.

Marketers have three responsibilities: 1) to generate leads, 2) to gather ROI data, 3) and to analyze that data. Most marketers are generally uncomfortable with their ability to do one or all of these things.

1 COMMENT

  1. Awesome post McKay. Lengthening sales cycles and the inclusion of additional decision makers is proof positive of the every evolving self-directed journey that customers take. The myth, however, is that analysis of the data in existing systems will reveal the detailed steps and expectations of customers. Since 80% of the purchase process is completed before the buyer(s) ever want to talk with sales, no amount of analysis of your marketing and sales data will give you the longitudinal path that buyers take outside of your website and paid search.

    The way to understand evolving sales cycles and customer journeys is to research them. Then align your processes, culture, roles and metrics, and systems to these journeys. It’s no where as scary as it sounds and it doesn’t take years to do. You can do this in a couple of quarters with full payback in under 2 quarters.

    For more on how to do this, learn about our Sellers’ Compass approach at http://www.newbizs.com/consulting-services/sellers-compass-services/

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